Play it safe

Ensuring that play is safe means regularly inspecting and maintaining play equipment, says Deborah Holt

School playgrounds and outdoor learning areas feel the impact of many hours of active play and learning by hundreds of children each year. Wear and tear to play equipment and surfacing is inevitable so it’s important to ensure that your school play facilities are safe and compliant with standards at all times. That means ensuring you have a rigorous approach to ensuring your outdoor play and learning resources are regularly checked, maintained and, where necessary, repaired. For advice on maintenance and repairs, schools can turn to the UK’s leading trade association for the play industries, the Association of Play Industries (API). The API represents manufacturers, installers, designers and distributors of outdoor and indoor play equipment and safety surfacing and it campaigns at the highest levels for policy recognition of the value of active play. 

API member companies install high-quality play equipment using certificated products and schools can be sure that wherever they see the API current member badge, they can get expert advice from a reputable company based on many years’ experience. The association’s members operate to the highest standards, abide by a strict professional code of conduct and are credit-checked and monitored regularly for financial stability and security. 

Having a good inspection and maintenance regime in place is crucial to ensure the safe operation of a play area. Before opening any new play area, a post-installation inspection should take place. This is undertaken by a registered and certificated annual outdoor inspector from the Register of Play Inspectors International (RPII) and is commissioned by the school or play company. 

Once this inspection is complete and satisfactory, responsibility for safety passes to the school, which must put in place an inspection regime, as set out in BS EN 1176, the standard for play equipment. According to the RPII, best practice is to adopt a three-tier inspection regime incorporating RPII training for staff which covers: 

Routine visual inspection

Observation of the play space by a trained staff member, looking for obvious hazards like missing or broken parts, broken glass or vandalism. This should take place weekly during low periods of use and daily during times of high usage. 

Operational inspection

A more detailed structural examination of wear, tear and stability of equipment by a trained staff member. This should take place every three months during low usage periods and once a month during times of high usage. 

Annual main inspection

An annual inspection by a qualified external RPII annual outdoor inspector to ensure compliance with standards and overall safety. 

Schools play a vital role in providing children with positive early experiences of physical activity and keeping them safe means ensuring that equipment is well-maintained. By choosing an API member, schools will have the reassurance and peace of mind that they are working with a reputable, financially stable and experienced play company partner. The Association of Play Industries (API) offers expert advice on maintenance, repairs or any aspect of planning a new play area. 

Deborah Holt, The Association of Play Industries W: 



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